You see, “shepherd” is a word that has two meanings…

Here is a comment I made during one of my occasional late-night Twitter commentary sessions about cable TV, as I speculated on helming my own Hallmark movie:

Teri Polo

I was, of course, wrong; Teri Polo has not nearly had her day. Though she’s aged out of She’s About to Marry the Wrong Guy But the Right One Just Came Along roles, she’s beautifully aging into the companion subgenre, She Married The Right Guy But Then He Tragically Died and She’s Not Sure She Can Love Again.

In The Christmas Shepherd, Polo is Sally, an author of children’s books who’s just sold a new idea based on her own dog, a German shepherd named Buddy. The dog truly belonged to her late husband, a Marine who survived three tours only to come home and die of a heart attack. Buddy has since become her main companion, her only company in a big country house while her son, also a military man, is away at war.

Next, we meet single dad Mark, who’s trying to start a new life after moving to be close to his sister following his wife’s death after a long illness. He runs a coffee shop while his 13-year-old-ish daughter, Emma, rolls her eyes at him.

What could be better than a set-up for a classic small town Widow meets Widower and They Find Love Again story? Well, I spent a good chunk of this movie in a state of flushed, manic irritation, and you’ll soon see why.

Sally’s not home when a thunderstorm strikes, and a freaked-out Buddy runs through a hole in the yard’s damaged fence and gets lost. Sally is beside herself. (We’ll ignore the fact that Buddy is smart enough to drag her to her husband’s grave every time they walk through town, but apparently not smart enough to know where his own house is.)

On the road, Buddy gets picked up by a random but nice dude. There’s no number on his collar, just a name. (Not brilliant, Sally.) The dude can’t keep Buddy, but he drops him at a shelter. Now, Mark’s sister happens to work for a mobile animal rescue service that picks up dogs that shelters might otherwise put to sleep. She takes a liking to Buddy and convinces Mark to foster the dog, although he’s skeptical that Emma is ready for anymore change in her life. Of course, they immediately fall for Buddy. There house is a home again, yada yada yada.

Meanwhile, Sally’s able to track down the rescue service after a selfie the first dude took with Buddy shows up on a lost pet finder website. She contacts Mark and Emma. At this point, they’ve had Buddy for two weeks. And….. they don’t want to give him back.

Excuse me???????

They’ve already filed adoption paperwork! Emma’s had such a hard time in the two years since her mom died! Mark is trying so hard to be a good dad, and losing the dog will be very sad for her!

TOO FUCKING BAD. IT’S NOT YOUR DOG. GIVE HIM BACK AND GET A FUCKING PUPPY.

Sally has a more generous spirit than I do, and sympathizes with Mark’s so-called dilemma rather than threatening to sue his ass like I would. (Plus, she thinks he’s cute. Fucking cute men getting away with bullshit since the dawn of consciousness.) She shares her sad story about the dead husband and how he brought Buddy back from overseas, but also agrees to let Mark think it over and check back in a few days.

Girl, you need to fucking go over to his house in the dead of night and steal your fucking dog back. IT’S YOUR DOG.

Aaaaaanway. Buddy, through his peculiar powers, continues making Mark and Emma’s lives better. The cool boy at school who Emma has a crush on talks to her because of the dog, and he starts to attract customers to the struggling coffee shop by sitting in the window looking cute. (These customers include a pack of Santas, in case we’ve forgotten our Christmas spirit amidst all the dog stealing.)

Finally, just as my blood pressure can barely take it anymore, the kid starts to come around to the idea that she stole a woman’s dog and is inflicting ongoing misery on an innocent person just to avoid a few sad fee-fees. Emma and Mark head to Sally’s to give Buddy back.

When they show up, Sally’s baking Christmas cookies for care packages for her son and the troops, sort of like how Emma’s mom used to bake cookies for their whole neighborhood. They stay to help out, and with the issue of the dog finally settled, Mark and Sally find themselves noticing a brewing attraction. And they are suuuuuuper awkward about it. Bumping into each other in the kitchen like idiots awkward. It’s cute.

The next day, Sally finds Emma’s left-behind iPad at her house. She and Mark meet at a “Christmas Market” to make the exchange. (I want to make a comment about how Christmas Markets cannot possibly be a thing, yet if I dig into my memory I am sure my junior high choir used to sing at one. Bizarre.) This turns into a bit of a coffee date, chatting about their old lives before their spouses kicked their respective buckets, etc. And then, AN ICE SKATING SCENE!! We’ve had a slight shortage of those so far in this year’s Hallmark crop. The rule is that one person has to be really good at it and the other has to be reluctant because they’ve never done it and then they fall a lot. This time Mark is the one who falls a lot.

thechristmasshepherd-0791

Courtship rituals continue with things like tree shopping, but Sally remains wary of the whole situation. You might think it’s because, remember, these people almost stole her dog from her, but really it’s because she hasn’t dated anyone since her husband died and didn’t think she ever would again.

Luckily, Buddy is still on the case. He’s baaaaaasically a magic dog, you guys. Like, he planned this whole thing to bring the two of them together. So every time Sally wants to leave he’s all laying down on the porch resisting and such, going WE ARE MEANT TO BE ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY. After a lovely evening of Sally helping Emma get ready for her first dance (yes, with the cool boy from school — Buddy strikes again), Mark presses Sally about her feelings, and she admits them, but still insists she’s not ready. As she heads home into a snowstorm, of coooooourse her truck breaks down. I am not sure how Buddy could have been responsible for this, but if a German shepherd can look satisfied with himself, he does. Sally calls Mark, he comes to help, they kiss in the snow, Buddy barks his approval, and Christmas happiness sprinkles down upon everyone.

It’s meant to be, lady. Deal with it.

Countdown to Christmas scorecard:
*female lead’s name is a Christmas reference: 3/7 films
*female lead gets fired: 1/7
*male lead has sad childhood Christmas memories: 2/7
*romantic ice skating scene: 3/7
*romantic tree decorating scene: 5/7
*character comes to senses after heart-to-heart talk with father figure: 2/7
*dead parents: 4/7

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2 Responses to “You see, “shepherd” is a word that has two meanings…”


  1. 2 Carly December 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I would like to log for the record my ongoing delight at these posts, and confirm that Christmas Markets are for sure a thing. My school puts one on every year (it’s actually called a fair, but Christmas shit is for sale, so I think it counts).


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